Spontaneous levitation photography often means that you ask the subject to jump and hold a pose, and you try your best to take a photo of them in mid air. WIthout understanding your camera’s shutter delay, you will have to repeat and repeat until you get the perfect shot, not to mention a very tired subject!
This goes for forced perspective photos too as your subjects need to maintain an awkward pose until you’re able to position the camera and yourself just right.
Among the things that you can do to improve your trick photography skill is to capture sharp photos of your levitating subject. A blurry subject will destroy the illusion of levitation or forced perspective and so you won’t be able to “freeze” your subject. But aside from levitation or trick photography, having a better understanding of your camera’s shutter delay will definitely improve all your photography efforts.
When you use a digital camera (who doesn’t these days?), especially to take action shots you will notice that there is a slight delay between the time you press the shutter button to the time the camera actually takes the photograph. Most of the time this little delay is small and not noticeable, but in action photos this delay can result in a photo that just missed the action. By the end of this article you will have a better understanding of why this is so and how you can overcome it.
A camera’s shutter delay is the time gap between you pressing the shutter button to the camera’s shutter actually capturing the photo. There is almost no shutter delay in old film cameras as the button is directly connected to the shutter, so it is released as soon as you press it. Digital cameras are a different beast as they’re actually powerful computers in your hand that performs a series of steps before actually triggering the shutter.
When you press the shutter button, the camera goes through a series of setup events in order to get all its electronics and mechanical elements ready. Only when these events are finished can the camera capture the photo. Also, when you take subsequent photos there is an additional delay as a result of the camera processing the image and saving it to memory. We’re not going to cover the technical intricacies here but suffice to say these steps are designed to help you take better photos in all conditions so it is not actually a step backwards, but the slight delay is still an acceptable trade-off.
The time it takes for the camera to complete these events can vary but is usually around one second or so. It might not seem long but it can make the difference between capturing your shot, missing it entirely, or producing a blurry result.
Here are the few things you can do to minimize the shutter delay of your camera.
Almost all modern cameras have a burst mode that shoots a fast series of photos. Higher end cameras like DSLRs allow you to hold down the shutter button to keep shooting continuously, filling up the memory card. Using burst mode you can shoot fast photos of an action event and then choose the one that best captured the events.
Autofocus is a godsend that has allowed us to literally “point and shoot”. The camera takes care of the focusing duties to ensure everything stays in sharp focus. The downside is that once awhile it tends to mis-judge what you want and it takes its sweet time doing it. You can reduce this delay by either switching to manual focus, or keep the shutter button half-pressed to keep the current focus locked. Holding the button half way down results in a one-time focus process and a focus lock. So when the action happens the camera won’t waste time re-focusing, and you get the shot you want. To some this may sound obvious but the majority of casual camera users are unaware of this.
Another culprit is the “initial delay”. Due to battery saving technology, most cameras will enter a standby mode if not used for a certain amount of time. If you switch off your camera, it will take time for it to get ready. The camera turns off most of its electronics like the LCD display if it goes into standby mode. Usually pressing the shutter button will awake the camera from standby, but some cameras have a setting where you can prevent it from going into standby. This is not really an issue if you’re capturing pre-meditated trick photo shots, but if its a spontaneous shot then this matters. If you can’t prevent it then you can periodically half-press the shutter button to keep it awake when you sense an opportunity shot.
The other thing you can do to create great levitation and trick photography is to get to know your camera and to get a feeling of the delay it introduces. Master your camera by getting familiar with the way it operates and you will be able to minimize shutter delay. Of course, if the delay is unbearable you could always switch to a higher end professional camera with improved electronics and less shutter delay.